Archive for January 2010
The comedy of errors continues.
Today – after no-one at all turned up on Saturday despite the manager swearing they would – a lone carpenter arrived to fit the new drawers in the island.
The fact that new drawers need to be fitted at all is their fault; they stuffed up the island measurements so the old ones didn’t fit. But tell me this: if you had to make new, bigger, drawers, would you honestly think the old, smaller drawer-fronts would fit the new, bigger drawers? Wouldn’t you just make new drawer fronts that fit?
Oh no. Not he.
‘Oh madam,’ he said. ‘The fronts. They don’t fit.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘They wouldn’t. You made the drawers a different size.’
‘What to do?’ he asked, looking like he might slash his wrists with his chisel.
‘Make new fronts?’ I suggested.
I’m beginning to feel I missed my vocation.
This is a picture I’ve been wanting to take for a while. ‘The Lunch Tree’ is a common sight around the city – gardeners and outdoors workers hang their lunch-bags in the trees while they work. In parks, you see little clusters of trees sporting plastic bags full of curries and soft drinks.
It’s quite common for the workers to take a siesta under the shade of nearby parked cars, too. I didn’t used to believe cars needed rear-view cameras until a friend’s parking camera was the only thing that prevented her running over a chap fast asleep behind the back wheels of her car.
The comedy of errors continues in the kitchen. The thing is, the Filipino team who are here doing the work, are actually really sweet guys – we’ve become quite friendly since they’ve been in my house most days for the past three weeks.
They’re really good with DS; just maybe not so good at kitchens.
The thing is, they keep making mistakes. For example, yesterday they had to re-spray the bits of the island they’d ‘shaved’ to fit the wrongly cut granite. But while the freshly spray-painted surface was still wet, they tried to put the granite family table back in place and scraped a whacking great hole in the day’s work.
So today’s been like Groundhog Day with them sealing everything off AGAIN, ready to repeat yesterday’s spray-painting.
Yesterday afternoon the project manager came round, full of talk about how they were finishing off today. To be fair, he was a flurry of activity with a tick-list, trying to get everything done. But the drawers that were left out of the island by mistake are still not made; the shelves inside the cupboards are still missing, etc.
Turns out the project manager’s off on holiday tonight and wanted me to pay the last 50% of the bill (due on completion) today, even though the job’s not finished.
Seriously, he did. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m not joking!
I have a friend from London in town at the moment. Today we were supposed to go to Aquaventure – the water park at Atlantis on the Palm. She was really keen; I was a little nervous, not least because I hate being forced underwater at high speed while sharks watch and laugh, but also because I’d vowed in 2008 not to give Atlantis a Dirham of my money until they free the captive whale shark. Criminals.
Anyway, the day dawned relatively warmly at 22.5˚C but, when I picked up my friend at 10am and it was still only 22.5˚C and I was shivering in my bikini and cut-offs, I was kind of overjoyed when she said she didn’t mind if we missed Aquaventure and went fake-handbag shopping instead (obviously not ‘fake handbags’, but rather fake-branded real handbags, IYSWIM).
So I took her to Karama: the part of town known for its fake-handbag shops. She had a well-thumbed little hand-drawn map leading her to the best, Iranian-run place. We managed to find it. We gave the wink that granted us access into the secret upstairs chamber; then the inner sanctum; then through the spinning wall that took us ever deeper into the labyrinth concealing the Jimmy Choo, the Tod’s, the Mulberry, the Chanel, the Dior, the Prada and, the holy grail itself: the Hermes.
Oh… I could have spent all day there, choosing which beauties to buy but, if there’s one thing DH hates me to buy, it’s fake bags.
‘Just get the real thing if you like it that much,’ he says (see, he really is a treasure).
Anyway, as it happened, my friend knew what she was after, found it, haggled her socks off and we were out within half an hour, with plenty of time and cash left over for a divine slap-up lunch by the pool at the Royal Mirage. That’s what I call a result.
The thing about re-doing the kitchen is that it’s the thin end of the wedge, as far as decor is concerned. It’s had a knock-on effect in the rest of the house. You simply can’t have an amazing, white, zingy kitchen in an otherwise dated, reddish-brown house (the reddish brown is not my choice – when it was built, the house was fitted with an awful lot of this rather unpleasantly stained wood).
You also can’t have an amazing, white, zingy kitchen with horrible beige ceramic floor tiles stuck together with crumbling grey grouting (what was Emaar thinking?).
Anyway, the immediate concern is that the kitchen opens through wide doors onto our family room, which opens out to the elegant pool terrace. This is the room where the kids hang out. It gets a lot of wear. Currently it’s blousy and magnolia: it’s in desperate need of a make-over.
In an ideal world, I’d have elegant, colonial-style furniture: deep, white linen sofas with silk and cashmere throws, a delicate colour scheme revolving around shades of white, a soft duck-egg blue and taupe, lots of wood (not reddish brown), ceiling fans, and white plantations shutters opening out onto the sun-filled pool deck.
But I have two little tinkers: DD, who has a penchant for felt-tip pens and an army of crumb-dropping and ice-lolly-dripping chums, and DS, who likes to throw his food around.
So I find myself in what must surely be the eternal conundrum of the stylish homeowner: how to create a room that’s both elegant and child-proof? Is there such a thing as ‘nice’ sofas that repel felt-tip pen, strawberry milk and face paints? And is there such a thing as sofas that look stylish and contemporary but don’t cost the earth?
I am yet to find them.
I’ve sofa-hunted in every mall; I’ve trawled up Sheikh Zayed Road checking out every furniture shop from Casa Mia to United Furniture.
I can find beautiful sofas that cost as much as a studio apartment – but what’s the point? We have nice sofas in our formal living room. I can find cheap sofas, but – well – they look cheap. Is there any middle ground? Ideas? Anyone?
I haven’t written about the kitchen for a few days because it was 95% done, and I was just waiting for the last few bits to be finished before doing the final ‘after’ picture.
However, getting the builders to do the last 5% of the work has been like pulling teeth. It’s like they went over their deadline, so they’re off on other jobs now and we’ve been left largely alone.
Still, the kitchen’s been usable, so I moved everything back in at the weekend, doing a huge spring-clean and throw-out during the process (I had packets with use-by dates of 2002 – they’ve been there longer than many expats have been in Dubai!). I’m still to pay 50% of the total cost, so I’ve no worries about them turning up to finish it when they realise they want the $. Or should I say the $$$$$.
[Note to others doing their kitchens: leave a large sum to be payable on completion.]
Anyway, today I came back to chaos: the sink ripped out, the new table ripped out, the cupboard doors in the garden, shelves in the garden, the contents of the (newly sorted and cleaned) cupboards on the dining room table, the ear-splitting sound of some electrical thing that was being used to ‘shave’ the island down to size, and every single surface in the kitchen covered in a thick layer of dust.
Uh. I had guests coming over for the afternoon.
Anyway, here’s the problem: the island, which was being cut smaller, was not too big before. It was just about the size I’d asked for. The problem was that the granite on top of it was too small – for the second time – and the kitchen company had decided to rectify the problem, not by cutting another piece of granite to fit the right-sized island, but by ‘shaving’ the island cabinets by 4mm to fit the wrongly cut granite.
They’ve chosen the option cheapest for them to cover up their mistake, and I’m expected to smile and pay top dollar for this shoddy work.
Is it just me, or would you be losing your patience a little too?
If you asked me what I miss most about the UK, I’d say the supermarkets: Tescos, Sainsburys (though I never really was a Sainsburys girl), Asda, Waitrose. Not because of the competitive prices, nor the healthy ready meals; it’s the choice – the fact that you can buy everything you want under one roof.
Just the thought of being able to go to one shop and buy ALL the groceries, as well as stuff like wine, baby clothes, mobile phones and travel insurance is so decadent it should be illegal.
Of course we have supermarkets here: there’s a couple of popular ‘expat’ ones that stock a wide range of imported products – as long as you’re willing to pay way over the odds for them – and there are cheaper places, too, that stock gorgeous local produce.
In the last year or so we even got a handful of Waitrose stores, but they’re a mystery to me because the pricing is so bizarre. If a 6-pack of branded Diet Coke costs £1, why would you want to pay £1.50 for a 6-pack of ‘Waitrose Essential Cola’? Is it really that good?
So, we have no problem finding supermarkets here. No. The reason I miss Tesco is because not one of the supermarkets here sells everything that I want to buy – and I’m only talking groceries here. Or, if they usually do, they’re often out of stock of a few items, which I then have to search for in another supermarket.
When I’m done in the second place, I usually have to unload the car and go to a third supermarket for something like fish, which isn’t nice at the other two places, and fresh cheese manakish, which DD loves in her lunch box and you can only get at the third place.
So, a grocery shop, which should take about an hour, ends up taking all morning and being the equivalent of boot camp by the time I’ve hauled DS in and out of the car three times and lifted him in and out of three different shopping trolleys in the baking heat and torturous humidity.
It’s not just me. Most of the mums I know end up shopping in multiple supermarkets just to get their groceries each week. Surely, surely, surely that defeats the purpose of a supermarket?
The party was exquisite. Like a mini version of the Oscars. Excitement had buzzed through town for weeks in advance and, on the day, the preparation paid off.
The shoes, the dresses, the guest list, the entertainment – all were stellar. The air reverberated with the gentle ‘mwah’ of air kisses as BMWs, Mercedes, Maseratis and Bentleys disgorged the eager attendees. Security was called to manage the traffic. An entire room of the house was set aside for gifts for the hostess.
There was African drumming, face-painting, an entertainment programme hosted by a TV personality. At the bottom of the garden, a Bedouin with almond-shaped eyes and skin craggy from the desert sun led a sulky camel up and down, offering rides to those who dared. The more adventurous ones stripped off and jumped into the swimming pool under the watchful eye of hired lifeguards.
No-one went hungry: homemade mini cheeseburgers in tiny wholegrain buns, mini fish ‘n’ chips in cones of printed paper and goujons of succulent chicken breast dipped in fresh tomato coulis were handed round by penguin-suited waiters. Mini trifles, tiny chocolate tarts and traffic lights of melon on wooden cocktail sticks satisfied any sweet cravings.
As the sun sank and the festivities drew to a close, the guests, clutching loaded goodie bags to their chests, were chauffeured home in a stretch Hummer.
No, it wasn’t the Oscars – just another five-year-old’s birthday party in Dubai.
When I heard back in December that Dubai Municipality had launched a hygiene campaign for beauty salons, I thought it was just a ruse to push people into using the city’s more upmarket and ‘blingy’ spas and salons. But today I visited a ‘saloon’ (as they’re called here) that made me realise the Municipality really does have a point.
I’m no salon snob. I’ve been to some of Dubai’s more insalubrious ‘saloons’, where the treatments are dirt cheap and the girls are friendly, but you have to make a pact with yourself not to see the pubic hairs on the dirty towels; to ignore the ants marching across your waxing bed; and never to ask if your beautician’s washed her hands since the last Brazilian…
Anyway, it’s been quite a few years since I frequented such places, but here’s what happened today:
Running errands this morning, I was about to call my usual salon for an appointment to get my eyebrows threaded when I noticed that, duh, I was parked right outside a salon. What’s more, it was in the upmarket area of Jumeirah, not some dodgy back-street dive.
What busy woman wouldn’t try her luck? It was only eyebrows. Why fiddle about with appointments at my usual place (which isn’t that great to be honest) if I could walk in here?
The moment I opened the door to a roomful of smoke and had to ask the bemused clutch of girls at the door, ‘Are you open?’ I should have turned and left.
The smoke was from incense. Not a little incense stick wafting a pleasant scent; I had to bat the air in front of me to even see the receptionist. Everyone was coughing. The floors had just been mopped and were still sloppy with water; every so often there was a sludgy pile of dirt and hair that’d been collected by the mop and was (I hope) waiting to be picked up.
Walk carefully, my dear. You don’t want to go spike-heels over highlights into those sludge heaps.
Anyway, before I had time to think, they’d said they could do my brows, grabbed the cash upfront and I was hustled into an even grubbier looking room labelled ‘Bride’s Room’ (poor brides!).
My brows were done by a lady who revealed only after she’d wiped my face with snotty hands and breathed all over me at close quarters that she had a streaming cold. After she blew her nose into a skanky tissue, she used her snotty fingers to apply saturated cotton wool pads onto my eyebrows. What was on them I don’t know but they felt like they burned a hole in my face in the two seconds before I ripped them off.
I couldn’t run out of there fast enough. Tips & Toes, you may not be great, but you’re also not that bad.
Something entirely strange happened in the kitchen today.
The contractors claim that the huge slab of granite topping the island was changed today (because it was too short). That means the sink was taken out, the plumbing disconnected, the huge slab heaved out of the house, a new slab heaved in, the plumbing redone, the sink replaced.
However, Gerlie, who was sitting about at home watching and waiting for that to happen, says it didn’t happen. She saw nothing.
Gerlie’s worked for me for two years; she’s alert, reliable and on the ball. A verbal tussle between herself, me and the contractor ensued. Gerlie was very animated; she insisted she was right; she didn’t miss a trick; the granite was not changed.
Of course, she’s only human – she could have been vacuuming upstairs and missed it. I wasn’t there; I’ll never know what happened.
But, as DH says, it’s all academic anyway, because, old or new, the granite still doesn’t fit the island.
The kitchen company wanted me to give some quotes for the magazine article the pictures are appearing in. A friend suggested, ‘I was so impressed with the work plan, the pricing and the time-frame promised by X company that I should have guessed they wouldn’t even come close to delivering on it.’ Nice.
[I'm not putting pix at this stage as, everything else aside, the kitchen looks stunning and I want to give you a super 'after' pic when it's all finished and fixed. Tomorrow, I hope!]